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If you have back pain or sciatica, you may be suffering from a pinched nerve. The pain may keep you from moving normally and may interrupt your normal everyday activities. Many patients dealing with pinched nerve pain can successfully treat their condition with conservative measures. Others require more invasive treatments like surgery to get full relief from their pinched nerve pain.

If you have a pinched nerve, you may feel various symptoms. These may include:

  • Back or neck pain
  • Pain in your leg or arm
  • Numbness or tingling in your leg or arm
  • Weakness in your ankle or arm

If you have any of these symptoms, you should visit your doctor right away to get an accurate diagnosis and to start on the correct treatment for you.

What is a Pinched Nerve?

A pinched nerve occurs whenever a structure in your spinal canal compresses against a nerve in your back. Your nerves travel from your spine and down your arms or legs. When those nerves become compressed, you may feel a variety of symptoms and may have difficulty moving normally.

There are different conditions that may cause pinched nerve pain. These may include:

  • Herniated or bulging disc
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal tumor
  • Arthritis

All of these problems require careful monitoring by your doctor or neurosurgeon to ensure that you get the best treatment for your condition.

Treatment for Pinched Nerve Pain

The main goal of any treatment for pinched nerve pain is to get pressure off of the nerve. Sometimes, conservative therapies like physical therapy or chiropractic care may help. Spinal injections may also be used to help decrease inflammation around your spinal nerves. If your symptoms persist, surgery may be required to definitively treat your pinched nerve pain.

There are different surgical procedures and approaches to treat spinal pain. One traditional approach is the standard open procedure. During this operation, your doctor makes a large incision in your spine and uses traditional surgical tools to cut away any material that is compressing your spinal nerve.

A more innovative technique in surgery is minimally invasive spine surgery. During this procedure, your neurosurgeon makes a small incision in your lower back, and specialized instruments are used to see your spinal structures and to cut away material that is pinching your nerve.

The goal of both approaches is to get pressure off of your pinched nerve. One approach uses a large incision with dissection of your back muscles. The minimally invasive approach uses a tiny incision and requires only small holes dilated through your back muscles. Understanding the different types of surgical procedures and approaches – and the risks and benefits of each – can help you make an informed decision about your care.

Minimally Invasive Microdiscectomy

If a disc herniation is causing your pinched nerve pain, your neurosurgeon may perform a minimally invasive microdiscectomy. During this operation, a small incision is made and the portion of your herniated disc that is compressing your nerve is removed. This gets pressure off your nerve to relieve your pain and improve your ability to move.

The benefits of minimally invasive microdiscectomy include:

  • Less pain
  • Rapid relief of symptoms
  • Minimal blood loss
  • Minimal risk of infection
  • Rapid return to functional activity

Of course, all surgery carries with it some risk, although these are minimal with a minimally invasive approach to microdiscectomy. Risks may include:

  • Failure to relieve symptoms
  • Re-herniation of your disc
  • Spinal fluid leak
  • Nerve damage
  • Infection

While these complications, especially the serious ones, are rare, your surgeon should discuss them with you so you understand what to expect from surgery.

Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion

Minimally invasive lumbar fusion surgery is typically performed to treat spondylolisthesis or degenerative disc disease. These conditions typically result in abnormal motion and/or instability in your spine and can cause pinched nerve pain or severe pain with movement of an affected spinal joint. During the procedure, a small incision is made and specialized tools are used to cut away bone or disc material that may be pressing against your nerve. Then, a small about of bone grafting material will be placed between your vertebra. This helps to fuse them together. A small titanium rod or rods will also be affixed to your bones to keep things stable while your spine fuses.

After surgery, your doctor may have you wear a spinal brace while things are healing. Benefits of minimally invasive spinal fusion for a pinched nerve include:

  • Rapid relief of nerve pain
  • Improved stability of your spine
  • Rapid return to previous level of activity

Risks of minimally invasive spinal fusion include:

  • Failure for your fusion to heal properly
  • Paralysis
  • Blood loss or infection

Remember, your neurosurgeon should be a trusted resource for you to turn to if you have questions or concerns about your surgery.

Minimally Invasive Scoliosis Surgery

If you have scoliosis – a lateral curvature of your spine – that is causing pinched nerve pain, you may benefit from minimally invasive scoliosis surgery. During this procedure, your doctor will use a small incision and specialized tools to halt the progression of your curvature and to help maintain spinal alignment. This can help take pressure off your nerves, decrease your pain and improve your mobility.

Benefits of minimally invasive scoliosis surgery include:

  • Improvement of your lateral curvature
  • More rapid recovery from surgery
  • Improved overall mobility

Risks of minimally invasive scoliosis surgery – failure of the hardware to stabilize your spine, pain and blood loss or infection – are similar to those of fusion surgery.

Minimally Invasive Spinal Tumor Surgery

Sometimes a spinal tumor may be the culprit when you have pinched nerve pain. Spinal tumors are space occupying lesions that can compress your nerves and cause pain. Minimally invasive tumor surgery is a procedure where your neurosurgeon uses specialized instruments to remove the spinal tumor to take pressure off your nerves.

Benefits of minimally invasive spinal tumor surgery include:

  • Less destabilization of the spine when approaching your tumor
  • Less postoperative pain
  • More rapid recovery time
  • Less risk of spinal fluid leak
  • Less risk of infection

The risks of minimally invasive spinal tumor surgery are similar to microdiscectomy. Depending on the location of your spinal tumor, there may be a risk of neurological compromise, such as numbness, tingling, weakness or balance dysfunction as a result of spinal tumor surgery.

If you have a pinched nerve, you should take time to learn about the different surgical options available to you to get pressure off your spinal nerves. Finding a NJ neurosurgeon who performs minimally invasive spinal surgery for your pinched nerve can help you enjoy rapid relief of your pain and maximize your chances of a quick and safe return to your previous activity level.

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